Starting XI, presented by StorageMart, is a biweekly series on SportingKC.com that highlights 11 of the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City, MLS and soccer around the globe. Click here to visit the Starting XI archive.
1. On the World Stage
Midfielder Gianluca Busio became the first Sporting Kansas City player to score in a FIFA U-17 World Cup on Sunday, heading home inside three minutes as the United States U-17 Men’s National Team fell 4-1 to Senegal in their group stage opener at Estadio Kleber Jose de Andrade in Cariacica, Brazil.
Busio’s bullet header, an exquisite finish off Joe Scally’s cross from the right channel, was tied for the earliest U.S. goal in a U-17 World Cup. The Sporting Kansas City Academy product now has eight goals in 16 international appearances at the U-17 level.
2. How the West Will be Won
It's the heavy-hitting new kids on the block against the perennial contenders in the Western Conference Final of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night. Fresh off a mesmerizing 5-3 win over cross-city rivals LA Galaxy, top-seeded LAFC will continue their record-setting campaign against No. 2 seed and 2016 MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC at Banc of California Stadium. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. CT with live coverage on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.
3. Beasts of the East
The last two MLS Cup champions will lock horns Wednesday in the Eastern Conference Final of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Reigning title holders Atlanta United FC will host 2017 winners Toronto FC at 7 p.m. CT with live coverage from Mercedes-Benz Stadium on FS1 and FOX Deportes. Atlanta eased past Philadelphia 2-0 in last week's conference semifinals, while Toronto claimed a 2-1 road win over top-seeded New York City FC to set up a matchup between the East's heaviest of hitters.
4. Feilhaber Makes his Picks
Over the last several weeks, Benny Feilhaber has made entertaining splashes off the field as the host of BS The Podcast, a weekly program in which he and former teammate Sal Zizzo welcome prominent MLS players and soccer guests for candid, compelling, banter-filled discussions. And the Sporting Kansas City midfielder isn’t stopping there.
The longtime MLS veteran and former United States Men’s National Team star has joined MLSsoccer.com as a guest columnist throughout the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, offering his predictions for this week's conference semifinal matchups.
5. Hit the Sticks
The eSporting Classic is coming to Smash.gg this Saturday, Nov. 2, giving fans the opportunity to compete to become the next eMLS player for Sporting Kansas City. Registration for the inaugural event is now open. The first-place contestant will receive $100 worth of FIFA Points, second place will recieve $100 worth of FIFA Points, and third place will receive $50 worth of FIFA Points.
6. Youngsters Unbeaten
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-15s and U-17s returned to Swope Soccer Village on Saturday for the continuation of the 2019-20 U.S. Soccer Development Academy regular season, hosting Texas side Rio Grande Valley FC Toros in a doubleheader. The Sporting KC U-15s (1-2-0, 3 points) claimed their first league victory of the campaign with an impressive 3-1 triumph, while the Sporting KC U-17s (2-0-1, 7 points) came from behind to post a 1-1 draw and remain unbeaten in the Frontier Division.
7. Saturday at Swope
The U-15s and U-17s are off next weekend, but the Sporting KC Academy U-19s (1-0-1, 4 points) will resume their regular season campaign on Saturday, Nov. 2, against fellow MLS academy Real Salt Lake. The contest is set for 11 a.m. CT at Swope Soccer Village and admission is free and open to the public. Fans can also follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates.
8. Courage Reigns Supreme
While the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs took a short break over the weekend, the North Carolina Courage stormed to another NWSL Championship on Sunday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, defeating the Chicago Red Stars by a 4-0 scoreline. The Courage have now won back-to-back NWSL Championships and three consecutive NWSL Shields as the team with the league's best regular season record.
9. Playoff Madness
Future MLS expansion sides Nashville SC and Sacramento Republic FC were among the eight clubs to advance to their respective Conference Semifinals as the USL Championship Playoffs saw a few upsets sprung on Saturday night. Click here for a full recap.
10. Pulisic Nets Hat-Trick
United States Men's National Team star Christian Pulisic entered Saturday without a goal in his first nine appearances for English power Chelsea FC. The 21-year-old playmaker quashed that narrative on Saturday in emphatic style, bagging a perfect hat-trick to lead Chelsea to a 4-2 win over Burnley in the English Premier League. Pulisic scored with his left foot, right foot and head to become the youngest Chelsea player to notch a Premier League hat-trick and join Clint Dempsey as the only Americans to score three times in a Premier League contest.
11. Offseason Dates
For those who missed it, Major League Soccer has announced the dates and details for the 2019 postseason roster mechanisms as current MLS clubs and MLS expansion clubs alike make crucial decisions about their 2020 rosters. On Nov. 19, the 2019 Expansion Draft will consist of Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC selecting five players each from the eligible player list.
Following the Expansion Draft, clubs will have an additional two days to make final determinations on their rosters prior to a Nov. 21 option exercise deadline. On Nov. 22, MLS Communications will release the list of players eligible for each of the postseason roster mechanisms, including the End-of-Year Waivers, Free Agency and the Re-Entry Process.